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Special counsel Jack Smith made a reference to himself and a Catholic saint in documents filed in a Washington, D.C., courtroom last week as he continues to pursue a gag order against former President Donald Trump.
According to the New York Sun, Smith compared himself to Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in his own cathedral roughly a thousand years ago, in his filing with the District of Columbia Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals.
“Two years after the priest was murdered, he was canonized by Pope Alexander III,” The Sun reported, adding that he was killed by England’s king at the time, Henry II, who disagreed with Becket’s church teachings and prerogatives.
In other words, he didn’t like what the priest was saying, and as such, four knights rode to Canterbury to kill Becket after the king offhandedly asked in his royal court, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
Harvard Prof. James Simpson told the Sun that the “citation of Henry II is perfect — it’s the locus classicus for indirect orders: an ostensibly innocent interrogative masking an imperative.” He added that it is “time to remember the power of words and time to remember Henry II.”
The Sun added:
Yet Mr. Smith offers the court fear rather than facts. By linking Henry’s question to Mr. Trump’s heated rhetoric — yesterday, the former president speculated that the special counsel will end up in a mental Institution “by the time my next term as President is successfully completed” — Mr. Smith aims to persuade the D.C. Circuit to ratify Judge Tanya Chutkan’s gag order, which is stayed pending this appeal.
Trump has taken advantage of the temporary pause in Chutkan’s order, calling Smith “deranged” and a “Trump-hating prosecutor” at a rally last week, The Sun noted.
“Repeated attacks are often understood as a signal to act—just as King Henry II’s remark, ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ resulted in Thomas à Becket’s murder,” the filing submitted by Smith and five of his Justice Department attorneys argued, per Newsweek, which added:
Smith is leading the prosecution case in Trump’s election interference case and is a frequent target of the former president at campaign rallies.
In their filing on Tuesday, the prosecutors ask the appeal court to reimpose a gag order that was placed on Trump by Tanya Chutkan, the U.S. district judge in Washington D.C. overseeing Trump’s election interference case.
“There has never been a criminal case in which a court has granted a defendant an unfettered right to try his case in the media, malign the prosecutor and his family, and…target specific witnesses with attacks on their character and credibility,” Smith’s team argued.
The filing also claimed that Chutkan’s gag order was “well-supported factual findings, narrowly tailored to advance a compelling interest, and more than sufficiently clear to provide the defendant with fair notice of how to conduct himself.”
“In particular, the Order leaves the defendant free to do virtually everything that he has claimed, throughout the litigation, that he must be able to do to run for office while defending himself in court,” the prosecutors wrote. “And the distinctions it draws between criticizing the policies of a political rival or describing the prosecution as politically motivated, on the one hand, and targeting trial participants or their expected trial testimony, on the other, is readily comprehensible. The Order should be affirmed.”
“The defendant has recently resumed targeting the Special Counsel’s family while the order has been administratively stayed,” they added.
The appellate court will hear oral arguments in the matter this week, the outlet continued. In a brief last week, Trump’s legal team told the appeals court that Chutkan’s gag order had been “sweepingly overbroad.”